Parents: Our First Teachers

We all know that our parents are our first teachers. What we learn from them, we secure deep into our very selves and take that knowledge into the vast world. Our parents shape our fundamental understanding of every bit of the world around us and every situation we will encounter down the road. I can understand that, now that I’m a parent, more than I ever have before. I often consider: what do I want my children to take away from this day, or this experience, or this life.

While tutoring recently, it resonated with me just how much our home life shapes us into who we are. A student of mine simply could not discuss certain thematic topics of a novel with her parents. Her parents were busy with work, and didn’t take much interest in learning what this student was learning. I can relate. Life is busy. But I could see how much richer this student’s life could be if his parents would discuss deeper life issues with him — maybe not around the dinner table, because tennis, gymnastics, hockey, volleyball, and soccer can get in the way. But maybe in the car while travelling from place to place. Maybe in the kitchen while doing the dishes and cleaning up for the night. Maybe even while brushing your teeth in the morning. A minute of valuable conversation can go a long way.

This made me wonder: what do we talk to each other about anymore? I find myself so busy on  my phone setting up play dates, working out uniform orders, registering for activities at various centres with various groups of friends, answering emails as room parent, getting back to all my friends’ messages to ensure our social calendar is filled up adequately, making sure my son gets on the same soccer team as all of his friends. I’m doing this all for my kids and my family, but how am I being present for them? Yes, all those things I listed are important to do, but looking them in the eye and explaining an important fact of life or sitting down with them and telling them a story they can learn from, or cuddling in bed before bedtime and sharing a piece of history with them. This. This is arguably more important.

I had a friend in university who talked about how she and her parents played Shakespeare trivia routinely at dinner while she was in high school. That was shocking information  to me! What I know about Shakespeare, on the other hand, is self-taught or I learned from my teachers in school. I’m pretty sure that’s the norm for most students. My parents were busy with work and running a busy household; they didn’t have time to discuss the higher matters of literature over dinner. My dad loves history, however, and he would be able to talk anyone’s ear off about that. I would sit and listen for three hours straight while he taught me a little bit about everything he knew. I wish I had been smarter and soaked it up a bit more. Thankfully, though, I was able to soak up this: how to think, how to reflect, and how to believe.

What will I teach my kids? What will you teach yours?


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Too Many Books…Too Little Time!

These are the books I’m hoping to dive into in the near future. Some have been on my list for years; I’ve collected the titles from friends, colleagues, students, or even simply walking through Chapters…you never know when a book will choose you!

Have you read and enjoyed any of these? Let me know if they’re worth my while!

The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
by Jane Austen
The Four Seasons by Laurel Corona
And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini
A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray
Lives of Girls and Women by Alice Munro
The Potato Factory by Bryce Courtenay
Solomon’s Song by Bryce Courtenay


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Books I’ve Read & Enjoyed

I am trying to make a list of books I’ve read and enjoyed in recent years. My humble rating of each book is in the brackets. Perhaps you can use this as a “to read” list for yourself, if you like. I’ll spare you the parenting and baby book titles that take up most of my time these days!

Can you list all the books you’ve ever read?
Do you agree with my ratings? Why or why not?

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (9.5/10)
Go Set a Watchman
by Harper Lee (7.5/10)
The Kite Runner
by Khaled Hosseini (10/10)
A Thousand Splendid Suns
by Khaled Hosseini (9.5/10)
The Poisonwood Bible
by Barbara Kingsolver (8.5/10)
Heart of the Matter
by Emily Giffin (5/10)
The Seamstress
by Frances De Pontes Peebles (9.5/10)
by Sonali Deraniyagala (9/10)
Eleven Minutes by Paulo Coelho (7/10)
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho (9/10)
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (7.5/10)
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte (8.5/10)
The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton (8.5/10)
1984 by George Orwell (8.5/10)
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (7.5/10)
The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton (7/10)
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (9.5/10)
The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls (9/10)
The Silver Star by Jeannette Walls (9/10)
And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie (9/10)
The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough (8.5/10)
The Shack by William P. Young (9/10)
Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom (8/10)
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (8/10)
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger (9/10)
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (9.5/10)
Lord of the Flies by William Golding (8.5/10)
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck (8.5/10)
East of Eden by John Steinbeck (9.5/10)
I Know This Much is True by Wally Lamb (9.5/10)
She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb (7.5/10)
The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb (9.5/10)
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd (9/10)
The Help by Kathryn Stockett (9.5/10)
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (9.5/10)
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (9/10)
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins (8/10)
The Taste of Apple Seeds by Katharina Hagena (7.5/10)
The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay (9/10)
The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill (9.5/10)
Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes (7.5/10)
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (8.5/10)
My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult (8.5/10)
Late Nights on Air by Elizabeth Hay (7/10)
Unless by Carol Shields (8/10)
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen (8.5/10)
Scarlet Feather by Maeve Binchy (8/10)
Evening Class by Maeve Binchy (7/10)
Quentins by Maeve Binchy (8/10)
Tara Road by Maeve Binchy (8/10)
Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder (9/10)
Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood (9.5/10)
Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood (8.5/10)


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Must Love Lists

Are you a ‘list’ person? I am. Everywhere I look, whether at home or at work, lists run my life…grocery shopping lists, to do lists, to fix lists….you name it. Here are a few lists you can make for yourself in case you’re a list person, too! Writing lists is a terrific form of writing….so write away!

1. List the cities you plan to visit.

2. List the countries you hope to go to.

3. List outdoor adventures you want to have.

4. List your dream jobs.

5. List the things you want to accomplish.

6. List things to do when you’re retired.

7. List habits to break.

8. List things you’d love to be knowledgeable about.

9. List films you’d like to see one day.

10. List moments in your life you don’t want to forget.

11. List TV series to see.

12. List activities you’d like to do during future winters and summers. 

13. List environmentally friendly habits you need to start.

14. List good deeds you should start doing.

15. List changes you wish for the world.

16. List world events you would have liked to attend.

17. List things to do when you’re feeling down.

18. List terrific halloween costume ideas.

19. List mistakes to not repeat in the future.

20. List things you hope to receive one day.

21. List qualities you want to have as a parent or godparent.

22. List what you’d do with an enormous amount of money.

23. List supernatural or miraculous experiences you’d love to have.

24. List fun things to do with kids.

25. List people you would love to meet.

26. List desirable qualities to find in significant others and friends.

27. List what you’d like to do for future birthdays.

28. List fictional characters you’d love to hang out with.

29. List details about your family for future generations.

30. List what your perfect home would entail.

31. List gift ideas for future giving.

32. List who to find in heaven.

33. List people not to lose touch with.

34. List some things to be less lazy about.

35. List people you’d seek out at future high school reunions.

36. List where you see yourself in five years, ten years, and twenty years.

37. List what you hope they say about you at your funeral.


Ideas taken from My Future Listography: All I Hope To Do In Lists (Chronicle Books, San Francisco, 2011)

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Got the Itch?

Got the Itch? Wanna start Writing?

Here are a few prompts to get your wheels rolling…

1. An old couple stops you in the street and says you’d be perfect for the job…

2. The entire neighbourhood is beige and grey, but at the end of the street sits a bright blue house. Who lives there?

3. You’re in the middle of a coffee shop, and time grinds to a halt. Describe the scene.

4. You find the end of a rainbow…

5. Write about something you hate to love.

6. Jeff has just scored the winning goal in the football championship. He is a hero, and he is being carried on the shoulders of the teammates. You are the reporter who gets to interview Jeff.

7. You meet a girl who, when she closes her eyes, can see the entire universe. Tell us about this girl.

8. There were pancakes everywhere…

9. You realize your crush is following you home. What do you do?

10. Describe a dream you remember.

11. A light in your backyard gets brighter and brighter, until…Flash! Flash! Flash! What causes these flashes? Where are you, and how do they affect you?

12. What does your dog do when you’re away? Does it go on adventures or guard the house? If it sleeps, what does it dream about?

13. Two people get stuck on a roller coaster ride together. What do they talk about?

14. You see a picture of yourself in a newspaper. It says you have disappeared. What is going on?

15. Does your house have feelings? Is it grumpy, happy, or somewhere in between? How old is it? If it could tell a story, what would it tell?

16. What’s something that you can do better than anyone else you know? Write a how-to guide about your area of expertise.

17. Write a witch’s spell.

18. Think of a bad habit, and write a scene where the main character can’t stop doing it.

19. What is the real story behind your favourite song?

20. Think of the worse fight you’ve ever had and write about it from the other person’s perspective.

21. For one day you can snap your fingers and live that day as any historical or famous figure. Who will you choose? Why?

22. What would you do if you were stuck in a bathroom?

23. You wake up one morning unable to speak or write. How will you communicate to those around you?

24. You’re sitting at a cafe, and when you get up to refill, you notice someone has dropped a note on your seat. What does the note say? Who has left it?

25. You find a bunch of kittens on the side of the road. They can’t find their mother. What do you do with the kittens? What do you discover about them?

26. Write the fantastic story about the origin of April Fools’ Day.

27. Describe the colour red to somebody who is colour blind.

28. Write a letter to your grandchild about the world you grew up in.

29. Write a letter to your hero. Why does that person inspire you? What do you wish to tell them?

30. What is your earliest winter memory?

31. Describe how it feels to be underwater.

32. Write about the worries of a very tall person.

33. Write about a family of tiny people who build dollhouses.

34. What do you do on a Saturday?

35. A woman thinks she might be living next door to her grandson.

36. Tell a complete stranger about a beloved family tradition.

37. The way the sky looks today.

38. Something you’d like to know more about.

39. Your most treasured photograph.

40. A piece of clothing you keep just for the memory.

41. The oldest item in your possession.

42. The point of view of a blind person.

43. Everyone was laughing, except you.

44. Your future wedding vows.

45. An argument at Sunday dinner.

46. Why you forgot to pay your credit card bill.

47. Your last year on Earth.

48. A scene that takes place in extreme cold.

49. A scene in which two people leave believing opposite things are true.

50. That snappy reply you never got a chance to say.


Ideas taken from the 642 Things to Write About books (Chronicle Books, San Francisco, 2011 & 2014)

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The Classics

One of my goals while on maternity leave this past year was to read as many of ‘the classics’ as I could. Through the sleepless nights and piles of laundry, I managed to read a few off my list:

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

These remain on my list…perhaps for the next maternity leave? 😉

Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
Moby Dick by Herman Melville
Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

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More Than Words…

I am telling this story because previous students have gotten a kick out of it, and I think lots of you may have had similar experiences….

As a teenager, I thrived on those emotional, hormonal moments that all teenagers experience, where someone wronged me, something didn’t go my way, or I felt such intense happiness about something. The words just poured out of me, as a consequence, and they would usually take the form of poetry.

Some of my classes (if they’re lucky!) get to see THE BLACK NOTEBOOK. This is the little book that held my writing, doodles, inspirations, and dreams in it. If a situation called for it, I would shut my bedroom door, light some candles, play some heartbreaking music, wait for the tears to spring to my eyes, and just write about whatever my heart was exploring in that moment. The sadder the song, the greater the emotion that poured out of me. So cliche but a necessary part of growing up for me.

Here are a few samples from back in the day. I laugh at these entries now, but have to appreciate the honesty with which they were written.


….in progress…..

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